Alexandria, VA

Update 5:45 p.m. — ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew said the organization has not evicted any residents, but has issued warnings aimed at preserving the vulnerable populations in ARHA communities.

“What we’re dealing with is a silent killer,” Pettigrew said. “We’re trying to keep people safe. It’s all about health and safety. The black community is the most vulnerable community. We’re not trying to be harsh, we’re trying to save lives.”

Pettigrew also said that if residents lose their employment they should contact their ARHA caseworker to schedule recertification, which will allow them to not be charged rent. The deadline for rent payment was also extended.

“We haven’t kicked anybody out, but we have to warn them,”  Pettigrew emphasized. “The last thing we need are people dying. I think I’m quite lenient with people, but [not when] jeopardizing people’s health.”

Earlier: As with many government agencies and businesses, coronavirus has shut down the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. For local residents in Alexandria’s public housing, that’s been a mixed bag so far.

Keith Pettigrew, CEO of ARHA, said in a March letter to residents that the organization’s office would be closed through the duration of the pandemic.

“We want our residents and public to know that at this time we have closed all administrative offices until further notice,” Pettigrew wrote. “Although offices are closed, we will still be providing the necessary services for residents with some restrictions.”

Pettigrew said maintenance would only respond to emergency, health and safety-related issues. All other work requests will be addressed at an undetermined future date.

With the city calling for the state and the federal governments to freeze rents, some said ARHA should do the same for its unemployed residents.

“They should give the others a deal,” said one resident, a 60-year-old Chatham Square resident told ALXnow.

The resident is on disability, pays about $100 monthly and is concerned about her neighbors.

“They don’t want nobody on the streets. People can’t work right now, too,” she said. “People are looking for jobs, because it’s hard to get a job. It’s bad enough with this virus that people are getting laid off their jobs. A lot of people are dropping like flies, dying because of this, and that’s sad, too.”

ARHA set up a virtual rent payment service for residents, and installed a rent box at the main office on 401 Wythe Street.

Some residents believe ARHA is handling the pandemic too harshly.

“The community center is open for food distribution for the kids from the school system during the week, and it’s a nice thing they’re doing,” said one 65-year-old man living in Hopkins-Tancil.

However, he also said residents were threatened with eviction if their children were caught on the playground. Playgrounds across the city are closed in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“If kids are on the playground, we were told that we’d get a 21/30,” the resident said. “You know what that is, right? It’s a notice that you get 21 days to fix it, or 30 days to leave. They’d also fine us about $65 if we put our trash out too early. It would be nice if they didn’t threaten us.”

ARHA could not be reached for comment.

James Cullum contributed to this story

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